Montague Dawson was born in 1895 in Chiswick, London. He worked for a commercial studio in Holborn, London before joining the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the First World War.
Dawson enjoys a reputation as one of the best marine painters of the 20th century. Much of his childhood was spent studying ships on the local estuary of Southampton Water. During his time with the navy he was an official artist providing illustrated reports of various expeditions, including to the South Seas in 1924, which were published in magazines and newspapers. Following the First World War Dawson focused on ships as subject matter, firmly establishing his position as a leading figure in the genre. He began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1917, was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1936 and became a founder member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists in 1939, where he exhibited frequently as well as at the Royal Academy.
The influence that Dawson had on his contemporaries was considerable, and his style was frequently emulated. His most revered work captured the famous races of the tea clippers from China, and the wool trade from Australia.
Demand for his work was strong and Dawson enjoyed the patronage of many influential figures of his day, including President Lyndon B. Johnson, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the British Royal Family. His work is today housed in numerous important private and public collections, including that of The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and the Royal Naval Museum of Portsmouth.